The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46744   Message #2588539
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
14-Mar-09 - 01:39 AM
Thread Name: Jamboree: Oat Cakes?
Subject: RE: Jamboree: Oat Cakes?
I've been working on an explicit version of "Jamboree." I wondered if anyone has anything more to add to this thread in terms of full contents to the chantey?

Anyway, here are notes to my rendition, gathering together some of the bits already in this thread. Unfortunately, there is no one concise thread about this chantey--bits are scattered in other threads about "Hog eye Man," etc....

For better or worse, it holds a certain place of notoriety, along with "Hog Eye Man," as being one of the chanteys that's "unprintable" in its actual form. However, whereas I think there are a fair number of people that have some sense of what the "actual" verses and implications of "Hog Eye" are/might be, there still seems to be a taboo-like lack of discourse on "Jamboree." Moreover, I think that as a result, the "real" lyrics and/or tone/meaning of "Jamboree" have gone unknown by most. Therefore, while it's not my desire to be crude, I think its time that *somebody* cracked open the taboo, as, to my knowledge the explicit lyrics have never been recorded or published.

Granted, there are not necessarily any absolutely "correct" or "authentic" lyrics to chanteys. It has been noted that, within the earshot of the wrong audience, chantey singers would self-censor—seen from a different perspective, they are choosing an alternate set of "clean" lyrics. I actually think that this song may have started out from a "clean" source: scraps of minstrel songs. Hugill mentions that earlier author Whall thought it was a "minstrel ditty" though "on what grounds I know not." Well, the word "jamboree," the name "Jinny," and the ambiguous "black man" all suggest it to me. There is also the variant chorus line which is close to "Jenny, get your hoe-cake done," a line of an 1840 minstrel song by Joel Walker Sweeney. Then there is there is the title. "Whoop Jamboree Jig" is the title of a minstrel banjo composition, though the melody is unrelated to the chantey.
"Whoop Jamboree" is also a minstrel song, dating from circa 1950, by Dan Emmett [quoted by Charley above]. The tune of it is unknown. The meter of the lyrics (wholly different, as expected, from the sea chantey, which follows more the "landmarks" theme of "Spanish Ladies") has similarities to this chantey. The chantey may have been a bawdy parody version of that song.

Despite the disclaimer that bawdy lyrics were somewhat optional, in this case they were customary. Two points: First, this was a homeward bound chantey. It being dirty destroys the myth, Hugill notes, that homeward bound chanteys were always kept "clean." Second, "Jamboree" also upsets the theory that bawdy lyrics only came in the solo verses of chanteys, i.e. that part of the song of lower volume and which could be varied at will. The choruses, according to this theory, being loud and set in a conventional form were not to be bawdy. However, in "Jamboree," "the final and noisiest line of the shanty's chorus IS unprintable!"

On to deciphering the text. The last line, just mentioned, is found in print and on record in such variants as:
1. "Jinny get your oatcakes done"–probably a misunderstanding of hoe-cake from the minstrel song, a Southern U.S. food, by British Isles folk for whom "oatcake" is more familiar. English collectors Terry and Sharp had versions of this.
2. "I wonder if my clothes are out of pawn." -- an obviously bowdlerized version.
3. "Come and get your oats, my son" – What seems to have been an attempt to re-create a sexually suggestive phrase out of the rubble of the "oatcake" line.
The Spinners, who popularized "Jamboree" in the folk revival, used this line. Given their audience, they obviously had to totally bowdlerize the song (theirs is a further degeneration of Cecil Sharp's). Indeed, it is comical, seeing their audience singing along, to imagine anything true to the authentic chantey! See video.
4. The line Hugill uses: "Jinny keep your ringtail warm." Importantly, he notes that, "I have endeavoured to get nearer to the original than other writers." Since his strategy is "camouflage" it is clear that he has changed one word to "ringtail"–a clever nautical double-entendre. A ring-tail was a small jib-shaped sail set aft-most. The allusion is clearly to "asshole" or some other synonym for a 2-syllable rear part. Indeed, as independent confirmation, Barry Finn [on another thread] mentioned hearing how Stan Hugill intimated to another that "arsehole" was the camouflaged word.

In the variations on other parts of the chorus, it is clear that other phrases have been covered. A common phrase is "long-tailed black man" (e.g. in Sharp). That it is unclear in itself suggests bowdlerizing. Hugill camouflages the phrase as "ringtailed black man," letting us know that the "black man" part should stay whereas a different phrase should come instead of "ringtailed" (and instead of "long-tailed," assuming that Sharp could not have been more explicit than Hugill). Actually, Sharp's version seems the most explicit about what that man does, "poke it up behind (me)." Hugill puts double-entendre here: "sheet it home behind." Perhaps Sharp was free to be explicit on that phrase since his earlier cover up (or John Short, his informant's) was sufficiently vague. (Sharp actually collected three versions of this chantey. The others had the phrases "…step it up behind me" and "Long time a-comin' that pretty little yeller gal", the latter probably being closer to the hypothetical minstrel origins.) Incidentally, the popular version by the Spinners had "oh your pigtail, sailor hangin' down behind," effective removing both sexual and racial connotations. (Even more incidentally, they seem to have adopted a 4/4 metrical feel, rather than the 2/2 meter of a capstan chantey, as well as the rollicking banjo, which was further enshrined by the MacColl/Lloyd recorded versions…and which gives a rather four-square feel rather than a jaunty one.)

While the focus is often on the "unprintable" nature of the chorus, note that Hugill also says, "The last line of each verse too had an unprintable rhyme." Although individual verses will vary—and mine lay no claim to authentic 19th century language—one can more or less guess what was intended, based on the limited pool of rhyming words.

recording is here:   **WARNING: Explicit language**